About Us

The LEC is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing and retaining the number of quality Latinx education professionals in K-12.

The LEC believes that representation is a key element in creating successful outcomes for all students. Emerging data show that when students are exposed to diverse teaching staff, educational outcomes improve. 25% of K-12 students across the country identify as Latinx. Only 8% of educators do. The LEC wants to close that gap.

The LEC works on creating and implementing culturally responsive recruitment and retention strategies designed to attract, support, enhance, and retain Latinx education professionals.

Core Values

COMMUNITY

We build community with others!

LEC is committed to creating spaces for and with the Latinx community as well as across sectors, organizations, and lines of difference. We believe that building community is collective work that is an imperative for innovation; community is what makes change  possible.

INTEGRITY

We work in integrity!

LEC is committed to listening to and learning from others in order to develop the programs, policies, and practices that are required to ensure Latinx educators and youth thrive. We recognize that the Latinx community is not a monolith; rather an expansive community with varied life experiences that inform how they want to show up in the world.

IMPACT

We strive to impact students and educators!

LEC is committed to working with educators, families, school leaders, and the broader community to share resources, develop policies, and implement practices that support and encourage Latinx educators to stay in the profession longer.

AUTHENTICITY

We show up as our authentic selves!

LEC is committed to caring for our community by sharing, showing, and embracing our full humanity. We use the power of storytelling as a tool for learning about ourselves and each other; to highlight that our greatest power lies in the journey to discovering and embracing our truths. 

PERSONAL GROWTH

We believe in personal growth!

LEC is committed to reflection and growth in our work internally and in coalition with others. We believe that in order for us to heal we must tend to the heart and mind of everyone with whom we collaborate.

The Latinx Education Collaborative leads from a place of inclusivity and a commitment to equity and social justice.​

— Edgar Jose Palacios, CEO & Founder —

WHY THE TERM "LATINX"

The Latinx Education Collaborative leads from a place of inclusivity and a commitment to equity and social justice. We see the “X” as a symbol of the intersection point of all of our Latin American communities, backgrounds, and identities. It creates space for those that are often marginalized within our own community.

We acknowledge that the term Latinx isn’t one that everyone likes or wants to use. And that’s ok. We understand that there may never be a term that fully describes and captures the beautiful vastness of our community. However, we welcome ALL of our community to join us in elevating the voices of and supporting Latinx educators. Latinx students deserve to see themselves represented and reflected in the teachers that serve them.

OUR TEAM

Edgar J. Palacios is the President & CEO of the Latinx Education Collaborative (LEC), an organization that dutifully works to increase and retain the number of quality Latinx education professionals in K-12. Edgar previously owned a nonprofit consultancy (EJPKC, LLC) and has had the privilege of working with organizations such as Community Builders of Kansas City; Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City; El Centro, Inc.; Show Me KC Schools; and the Kauffman Foundation.

Susana & husband smiling

Susana Elizarraraz is an educator from and in the community where she’s lived her whole life, Northeast Kansas City, Missouri. She has committed to the work of urban education since she graduated with her Bachelor’s in Elementary Education with an emphasis on Urban Education as a scholar in the Institute for Urban Education from the University of Missouri – Kansas City. She began teaching 6th grade at a school in her home neighborhood. In 2017, she graduated with a Master’s of Arts in Teaching English as a Second Language from Webster University. After teaching for 5 years, the systematic problems in education were made clear and encouraged her to make a move. She has more recently been committed to equity in education, especially now through her work with the Latinx Education Collaborative. As the Vice President of Educator Supports of the LEC, she works to increase Latinx educator representation in K-12 classrooms by establishing and fostering relationships amongst all community stakeholders to promote equitable access to Latinx educators, thus working toward an equitable education for all students.

Lexie Rios, born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri proudly serves as the Community Project Manager with the Latinx Education Collaborative. With a passion for students and advocacy, she aspires to find her place in the education ecosystem, so that she can leverage opportunities to amplify the voices of students of color. Previously, she served two years as a City Year AmeriCorps Member (in Tulsa and Kansas City), where she coached 5th-grade students in attendance, behavior, and reading. Currently, she is working towards her degree in education & communications.  In her current role, Lexie is supporting Latinx educators through coordinating the overall operations of the LEC, centering culturally responsive community engagement.

Erika Garcia Reyes is the Director of Administration for the Latinx Education Collaborative (LEC). She also supports Revolucion Educativa (RevEd). 

Erika is an experienced nonprofit leader with many years of experience managing projects, programs, and grants. She is passionate about developing others and advocating for underrepresented populations. She is excited to bring her skills to continue to expand and strengthen this work.

Devon Teran headshot

Devon Terán is an experienced educator who brings experience as a teacher, coach and administrator in both traditional neighborhood schools and charter schools. Teran is excited to join the RevEd team and advocate for meaningful and sustainable change to support Latinx educators and families. Devon Terán serves as Director of Policy & Partnerships at RevED KC.

Ivan Ramirez Headshot Smiling

 Iván Ramirez is the Director of Digital Experiences at Revolución Educativa Kansas City (RevED KC). A trusted community community member and advocate. Ivan joins LEC as Director of Digital Experience. Ivan is passionate about developing the leadership capacity of underrepresented students. His experience in the classroom ranges from teaching Pre-k to College. A champion of the Latino community and with over ten years of experience in the field of education, mentoring, student activities, and building sense of belonging. Ivan looks forward to build accessible and equitable education for all students.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Senior Professorial Lecturer of Education Policy and Leadership American University; Executive Director, Black Educators Initiative at Urban Teachers

Robert began his career as a middle school teacher in the Detroit Public Schools. As a former teacher, school administrator, school district senior leader, and tenured professor of urban education at Loyola University Maryland, Robert currently serves as a senior professorial lecture of education policy and leadership in the School of Education at American University. Dr. Simmons’ research seeks to illuminate the lived realities of historically marginalized communities across multiple K-12 contexts. More specifically, he explores the experiences of Black students and teachers in a variety of context, including–public schools, public charter schools and Jesuit high schools. Additionally, Robert’s work explores antiracist praxis in K-12 schools and nonprofit organizations. Dr. Simmons’ work has been published in several national refereed journals including Urban Education; Journal of Urban Learning, Teaching and Research; Journal of African American Males in Urban Education; and the International Journal of Critical Pedagogy. His work has been celebrated through awards and honors including the Emerging Scholar in Service-Learning award, Outstanding Alumni Award from the College of Education and Human Development at Western Michigan University, Faculty of the Year in the Graduate School of Education at Hamline University, and being nominated twice as the Walt Disney National Teacher of the Year for his teaching in the Detroit Public Schools. Having served as a co-editor of Talking about Race, Dr. Simmons and a team of colleagues had the honor of having their paper focusing on the experiences of Black boys and school counselors in urban schools honored as Urban Education Editor’s Choice Selection. Robert is currently a member of the Diversity Scholars Network at the National Center for Institutional Diversity (University of Michigan), and a board member with Black Girls Code and Latinx Education Collaborative.

Learning & Evaluation Director at City Year

Selina, a KCMO native, moved back home in July 2015 to serve with the City Year Kansas City startup team. City Year is an education nonprofit dedicated to helping students and schools succeed and currently serves in 28 cities nationally and 4 internationally. Selina graduated from William Jewell College in 2010 with a B.A. in International Relations. After graduating, she helped to start a non-profit with the Mexican Consulate on the Texas/Mexico border, serving as a Project Manager for a women’s shelter and literacy coalition. Following this, she was hired as a first-year Team Leader and then Program Manager with City Year Cleveland. In Cleveland she served as the President of the Young Latino Network and was selected for Kaleidoscope Magazine’s 2012 Top 40 under 40 Latino Professionals. Selina then served with City Year Tulsa for their Founding Year. In her 7 years with the organization Selina directly managed 55 AmeriCorps Members and led 6 school partnerships in 3 school districts. In her current role, she oversees AmeriCorps Member instructional training and the collection and analysis of impact data. Outside of City Year Selina volunteers as a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sister, serves on the Board of Directors for Uncover KC and is on the steering committee for Amplify, a conference focused on empowering educators of color.

President & CEO at El Centro, Inc.

Irene received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. After graduating from college, she developed children and youth programs for nonprofit organizations including El Centro and Wyandotte Mental Health Association in Wyandotte County. Caudillo is currently President/Chief Executive Officer for El Centro, the agency she started her nonprofit career with, where she oversees the day to day operations for the agency. Caudillo is a member of numerous community boards including the Wyandotte Health Foundation, KU Advancement Board, CHWC and the University of St. Mary. She has received numerous honors for her work, including named by City Union Mission as one of five women in 2010 as the recipient of Women who Changed the Heart of the City award, the 2015 NFL’s Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award, and the 2015 Donnelly College’s Delta Award. Irene is married and the proud parent of three children.

Director of Language Services and Cultural Equity at Kansas City Public Schools

Allyson Hile is in her seventh year as Director of Language Services and Cultural Equity for Kansas City Public Schools and her 19th year in education. Previous to her current position, she served as an ESL Resource Teacher for five years, a sheltered middle school ESL Social Studies teacher for six years and a bilingual paraprofessional. Ms. Hile has also taught graduate level courses for the TESL program at Webster University. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Truman State University, her teaching certification from Avila University and her Master of Science in Education from the University of Kansas. She is a Centurions alum (class of 2018), a leadership program of the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, and Leading Educators, class of 2011. She currently serves on the boards of Jewish Vocational Services and the Linwood YMCA.

Assistant Superintendent at Kansas City Public Schools

Navigating many systems to best disrupt the inequalities in education, Trinity served as a classroom teacher, literacy coach, Associate Professor, and Assistant Superintendent. Knowing a majority of classroom teachers were white and female, Trinity worked to recruit Black teachers which resulted in an article in the Advocate, Recruiting Minority Teachers: Benefitting all students (2010). She led a charge to bring students of color to the College of Education to learn about the importance of being classroom teachers. She founded the Urban Suburban Experience (USE) minor to expose white teachers from rural areas to large districts. She created a guide to teaching morphemic analysis, Prerootix, for classroom teachers to increase vocabulary through Greek and Latin roots with a goal of increasing ACT scores. Trinity and her husband, Ed, developed a summer program in her hometown of Parsons, KS to teach history, morphemic analysis, and accountability to black students.

Trinity holds a Bachelor’s degree from Pittsburg State University, Master’s Degree from Emporia State University, and PhD from Kansas State University. She currently serves on boards for Avila University, University of Missouri at Kansas City, and she chairs the Missouri Program for Educational Renewal Operational Council.

Vice President of Commercial Banking at Wells Fargo

Jacob is currently Vice President of Commercial Banking at Wells Fargo. He is passionate about coaching boys basketball and is deeply invested in the Kansas City community through his service on the Diversity Task Force for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City.

Lead PreK Instructional Coach at Operation Breakthrough

Roberto is an experienced Early Childhood Education Instructional Coach with a demonstrated history of working in the Nonprofit Education field. His expertise is reinforced through my Master of Science degree (M.S.Ed.) focused in Early Childhood Education from Dominican University. He also serves as an Adjunct Professor for Metropolitan Community College – Penn Valley.

Director of Leader Support and Development, Education Leaders of Color (EdLOC)

Patrice is the Director of Leader Support and Development at Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC). In this role she designs and delivers professional development opportunities, builds community and encourages values-driven action among a cadre of high-level Black and Latino education leaders across the country.

Prior to joining EdLoC, Patrice served as Associate Director of NYC Men Teach, a mayoral initiative aimed at increasing the number of men of color in the pipeline to become NYC public school teachers. Patrice has also served as Director of K-12 programs for Bell Curves LLC, where she oversaw the work to bring equity to the landscape of test preparation for underserved youth in NYC, as well as Washington DC, Philadelphia, Boston and Atlanta.

Vice President of Marketing, Resorts World Bimini

Debra is currently Vice President of Marketing at Resorts World Bimini. Debra is a marketing professional with 20+ years experience in brand marketing and development, budgeting, social media, direct mail, advertising, promotions, entertainment, client services, and has strong community ties.

Graduate Student, University College London

Bakari Ukuu’s mission is to leverage his leadership and diverse experiences to help dismantle systems of inequity and expand the opportunities and outcomes for students. Bakari is currently pursuing a master’s degree in education and international development from University College London in London, England. Prior to going back to school full-time, Bakari spent seven years as an educator in Kansas City, MO. After joining the Kansas City Public School staff in 2012, Bakari quickly became an active advocate for the district’s students, families, and staff. His passion for improving the educational landscape in Kansas City led him to serve in multiple capacities within education. He has served as a classroom teacher, an instructional coach, and most recently as a middle school vice principal. Bakari understands that schools do not exist in a vacuum. In addition to his school based roles, he has served as a founding board member of the Kansas City Public Schools Education Foundation, a Trustee for Kansas City Public Schools Retirement System, a panelist for No Wrong Answers Podcast, an executive board member of the Kansas City Federation of Teachers, and a steering committee member of Brothers Liberating our Community (The BLOC), an organization designed to recruit, retain and connect men of color in education. Bakari currently serves as a national board member for Teach For America’s Collective National Advisory Board.

 

CEO, Getting Smart

Tom Vander Ark is an advocate for innovations in learning. As CEO of Getting Smart, he advises school districts and networks, education foundations and funders and impact organizations on the path forward. A prolific writer and speaker, Tom is author of Getting Smart; Smart Cities That Work for Everyone; Smart Parents; and Better Together. He has published thousands of articles, co-authored and contributed to more than 50 books and white papers. He writes regularly on GettingSmart.com, LinkedIn, and contributes to Forbes. 

Previously, Tom served as the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He also served as a public school superintendent in Washington state and has extensive private sector experience. Tom co-founded the first education venture fund, Learn Capital. Tom is a board member of Education Board Partners, Director for 4.0 Schools, Digital Learning Institute, and eduInnovation and Advisor for One Stone, Teton Science Schools and Whittle School & Studios. 

Tom received the Distinguished Achievement Medal and graduated from the Colorado School of Mines. He earned an M.B.A. in finance from the University of Denver, and continues his education online.

Senior Vice President and Private Client Advisor, Bank of America Private Bank

Don Wratchford is a Senior Vice President and Private Client Advisor at Bank of America Private Bank based in Kansas City, MO.  Don works closely with clients to address a range of wealth management needs. He leads a team of specialists who work in concert to design and implement tailored financial strategies in investment management, trust and estate planning services, liquidity-event strategies, lending and philanthropy.

Prior to joining Bank of America Private Bank, He served as Business Development Analyst at Merrill Lynch for over 9 years helping give him experience and insight into the wealth management needs of high net worth individuals and families.   Previously, Don was an entrepreneur with 6 businesses of his own with over 200 employees for over 20 years. 

An active member of his community, Don currently serves on the board of The Downtown Council, Business Retention and Development Council of KC, former board member for United Way of Overland Park Kansas, Central Exchange Corp Advisory Council.

 

Founder, Amplify Equity

Dr. Kelly Ocasio founded Amplify Equity as a vehicle to drive equity-centered transformation across our schools and communities. She approaches her work through a critical lens, understanding that schools and systems perpetuate the inequity that is baked into the tapestry of our culture. Kelly is an educator, coach, facilitator, experience designer, and capacity-builder who partners with educators, leaders, and organizations striving to transform their systems toward equity and justice. Her passion for this work is grounded in her personal identities and lifetime experience of  navigating the world as a “cultural border-crosser.” As a multi-racial, bi-cultural, bi-sexual, and cisgender woman, she knows first-hand what it feels like to never fully “fit” into a mold. She has seen the lack of equity and justice play out in our education (and broader) system first-hand and is driven to tackle the system head-on to enact transformational change. She is a systems-thinker who understands and leverages individuals through a collective impact approach to systems-change. Equity-centered transformation requires both dispositional (mindset) shifts AND technical (culture, practices, and structure) shifts. She is a relationship-builder who believes in the power of interpersonal connections to impact broader change. Change happens through people and we have the power to create the just & equitable systems we desire.

 

Kelly has experience across the P-20 pipeline, from being an elementary dual language teacher to working in higher education administration and state education leadership. She holds a BS in Elementary Education and Spanish from UW-Madison and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the UT – San Antonio. She also holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis and Curriculum & Instruction from UW-Madison, focusing her research on Latinx teachers’ pathways into education and identifying the opportunities and barriers to the Latinx community pursuing a career in teaching.